The Soccer Desk

Gilt Trip: Klinsmann names Gold Cup Roster


US Men’s National Team Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann today named the 23 players who will don the stars and stripes to contest the 2013 Gold Cup, set to kick off in just over a week.  The list is an interesting combination of aspiring younger players, recovering veterans, and fringe national teamers looking to move up the ticketing queue for next year’s flight to Brazil.

While in more innocent, simpler times the off year Gold Cup would serve as a good opportunity to blood up and coming prospects for the national team pool, the rule change that awards the tournament winner a one game playoff against the 2015 winner for the chance to compete in the Confederations Cup means that the USSF has to take the competition more seriously, and add enough levening vets to ensure a competitive squad.

If the two defining moments of the current World Cup cycle are the loss to Mexico in the final of this very tournament two years ago, and the failure of the U20s to qualify for the London Olympics, this roster is, within its context, a logical endpoint, and a snapshot of the transitional state of the US player pool, the chaos underlying the serene surface of ongoing Hex success.

It is important to note as well that for the first time in Gold Cup competition CONCACAF has allowed for a taxi squad, a group of 12 players named to the 35 man provisional list, but not to the final roster.  Following the first round of matches, Klinsmann can call in up to four players from the taxi squad, including several first team players recently involved in qualifiers.

With all that said in the most roundabout possible way, here is the breakdown of Klinsmann’s roster:

Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

No surprises here.  Rimondo was assumed for some time, and Hamid all but confirmed for over a week.  What is interesting is the selection of Sean Johnson over Tally Hall.  A year ago Hamid & Johnson were thought to be neck and neck, but last spring’s debacle in Nashville, combined with poor club seasons opened the door for Hall, who was a surprise inclusion in January’s Camp Strudel.    It will be interesting to see which of the three gets the starting nod, but the smart money is on the steady hands of the veteran Rimando.

Defenders: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Edgar Castillo (Tijuana), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Oguchi Onyewu (Malaga), Michael Freakin Orozco Fiscal (Puebla), Michael Parkhurst (FC Augsburg).

This is a weak group marked more by versatility than ability, and if any players are to be swapped out after the first round, it is likely they will be on defense.  Of the eight players named only two, Castillo and Beasley, could reasonably be expected to be on the World Cup squad a year from now, and they play the same position.  Centerback is a combination of positional defenders with poor physical play and the hobbled giant, Oguchi Onyewu, who has not played serious minutes for his club team in almost a year, and was last seen in stars and stripes in 2011.  This tournament could also be the first meaningful international matches for Tony Beltran and Corey Ashe, versatile MLS defenders with some promise, but who are leargely competing with Brad Evans to be the next Jonathan Spector.

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Helsinborg), Joe Corona (Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Joshua Gatt (Molde), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Jose Torres (Tigres), Brek Shea (Stoke City)

Klinsmann’s midfield selections show the potential for much dynamism and creativity, but are perhaps lacking in grit.  Kyle Beckerman is the only true CDM on the roster, with Jose Torres likely deputizing for him.  Stuart Holden, back after nearly three years lost to injury could be slotted in at CAM or up top in a Graham Zusi-type roll, depending on the opponent.  Joshua Gatt, the speedster from Molde should man the left wing, with either Landon Donovan or Alejandro Bedoya on the right.  Mix Diskerud, who was once described as having “pillows for feet” will see time at CAM, and minutes in the Gold Cup will finally cap-tie the dual national to the US, while his U-20 running mate Joe Corona slots in naturally in Clint Dempsey’s spot just below the striker.

Brek Shea is not on the roster submitted to CONCACAF and so is ineligible to play in the first round of the Gold Cup, however he will train with the team prior to joining Stoke for their preseason tour of the US, and will be eligible to play in the warmup friendly against Guatemala July 5th.

Forwards: Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), , Herculez Gomez (Tijuana), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Klinsmann’s Gold Cup strike force is solid, with first team regular Hercules Gomez being joined by MLS Golden Boot Leader Jack McInerney & professional bear impersonator Will Bruin.  The fourth selection, Chris Wondowlowski is, however, somewhat puzzling.  Wondo is a great guy with a great story, but he is hardly on the upswing of his career, and has never seemed able to catch up with the pace of the international game.  With McInerney a much younger and stylistically similar player already on the roster, one wonders if there was a better choice.

Taxi Squad: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Brek Shea (Stoke City), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich)

The Gold Cup kicks off next week across the US, and The Soccer Desk will provide full coverage, including live-on-site reports from Portland, New York, Hartford & Baltimore.